Murders in Progress by Eldon Cene

Secret database2

Tracking a Scent

(Episode 48)

 

“Do you know that Robert Frost poem, where he says,

 

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,” ?

 

Nancy spoke as her fingers raced over the keyboard.

“Well, Mr. Wallace, the teacher I had for investigative journalism, said that you find those ‘two roads’?  And you trace them back to where they first ‘diverged’?  And that will make ‘all the difference’.”

Nancy had supplanted Ruth at the keyboard and was speaking to the others clustered around as she sped her investigation through the networked maze of a national data base.  Nancy had two files open.

“Okay.  In this window I’m back tracing our first victim, Clarisse Clemens.  Oh, this is interesting.  She has past arrests for prostitution and confidence games.”

“She could’ve met any kind of murdering low lives in those professions,” Ramey suggested.  Then his head twitched sharply to the right, so quickly, Ruth was afraid he might have hurt himself.

“I’ve never done any of those things,” the Muffin Lady objected sharply.  “Nor have I associated with anyone, knowingly anyway, who did them.”

“Okay, okay.  By ‘interesting’, I meant more that her background will add color to the article.”  Nancy turned and smiled.

Ramey smiled sweetly back.  ‘This is weird,’ Nancy decided.

“Anyway, so in this other window I’m tracing Ms. Loomis here, our ‘Muffin Lady’.  Oh, look at all the articles here.   And here’s those two of mine, in the New York Times!  The first, with the picture of Sheriff Leland, and then the second, with those pictures and stories of the shoot out…”

“And!  moving on…” Ruth said.

“Sorry,” Nancy apologized.

“You know, I don’t believe I’ve seen anyone test the Sheriff more than you have little girl,” Ruth admonished her.

“I know, I know.  I’m sorry,” Nancy apologized again.  “Mr. Wallace said that we may have to say that a lot.  But that, that was okay, as long as we did our job.  We got the story,” she said a little more upbeat.

“Remind me to have a word or two with this Mr. Wallace of yours,” Ruth said.

Nancy kept her head down and continued searching through the screens, trying this keyword, then that; this association, then that.

 

This went on for several hours.  Nancy kept at it, while Ruth stepped outside to have a smoke.  Then Ramey walked back to his cell, to lie down awhile, and cover his eyes with a cool washcloth.  Then Ruth stepped back inside and called across the street for some take out lunch.  Then they all ate while staring at the screen.  By the late afternoon Ramey was sawing logs while Ruth was playing solitaire in the Sheriff’s office.

“I’ve got it!”  Nancy cried.  “You were born in Pinch, West Virginia.  Doctor Ramey.  Doctor Ramey!  Did you hear that?”

“I could have told you that, had you just asked!”  Ramey/Muffin Lady staggered in groggily.

“And Clarisse Clemens was born in Charleston, but raised in Elkview, West Virgina,” Nancy declared.

“Yeah.  Just a few miles up the holler,” the Muffin Lady replied.

“Quite a coincidence, huh?”  Nancy exclaimed.  “Maybe you two went to the same school?”

“No.  No.  The kids from Elkview attended Milton middle school and then later on went on to Benton High.  While we went to the local Pinch Middle School, and then attended Sadie Meyers High.  We only saw them at the games.  And me, rarely, because girls didn’t have any sports, and I’d be damned if I was going to go miles out of my way to scream and cheer for a bunch of pimpled boys, who felt any recognition opened the door to my drawers.”

“Oh.”  Nancy reddened slightly.  “Well, still, you have to admit.  This is an enormous coincidence.”

“ But that’s all it is.”  Ruth nodded.

“What do you mean?!”

“That’s all it is.  It is an enormous coincidence.  But that’s all,” Ruth said.  “What, if anything, does this tell us?”

“Jeeze.”  Nancy sighed, and turned back to the computer.  “You know, you people in law enforcement don’t get enthused enough.  Maybe you should get out more.  Shoot something,” she groused.

 

It took Nancy three more days of after school sleuthing, before she finally hit upon it.

Sheriff Leland and Merlin had returned meanwhile with their news.  And the Sheriff had beaten up the phone and hammered on the computer for several days himself trying to figure out just who Bob and Harriet Weeds had fed to the pigs.  He tried all the databases.  He used all his passwords.  Then Agent Hailey dipped into her FBI database, using all her passwords.  Ruth googled.  And Merlin went back to his Vet lab to see what he could find and match with the weird plastic shred of evidence they had.  But they all drew blanks.  “What in the world good is an ID, if the agency doesn’t exist?”  Merlin asked.

“Probably just for show,” Leland admitted.

“So they could have been just anybody, posing to be somebody?”  Merlin said.

Leland sighed.  He nodded.

“We could have just talked to the pigs,” Merlin declared.

Leland smiled.

“I’ve got it!”  Nancy squealed, from Ruth’s office.

 

Both Leland and Merlin’s brows rose.  “What have you got?”  Leland called from his office.

“Just… the answer!”  Nancy called back haughtily.

Photo lifted from Google Images

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